After a Long Winter
The carpenter ants aren’t clever
enough. Sawdust across threshold
gives away their terraced apartments.
Haul it away, and live another season.
A red door, slightly water rotted,
gave them easy purchase, and
to the colony, wasn’t this a tree
unnaturally thin and straight,
its casing more secure? Their first job
in the universe is excavation.
Whatever aids destruction,
prevents the forest flaming.
Would you be winged or sterile
wingless workers? Do you live
amongst the colony of females
trudging, cutting, carrying? Their
life is factory. Winged males
emerge on warm days in spring
like us with our mowers and rakes.
Winged males emerge on warm days
in early summer, and the long winter
long behind, mating! They have left
the dark and cleaned out door. They
have left the sawdust betrayal. Mating
occurs during brief flight, air, so
much air and wind after the still home
where everything was path and circle
space like a water trail meandered.
And even at night, more light—moon--
than the dark they were born to.
Imagine how strange even sound
might be, and then flight, so freeing.
Mating after which the male dies.
What, Species, were you thinking?
Males unnecessary past this point.
Do not enter. Go no further. Dead.
Their religion would call it
ascension or rapture. Or would
they have heaven in soft moist
earth and wood? Is every tunnel
homage to the ones gone home?
Every female is a winged queen
sailing the air for mating, up to now
when she who has flown, fairy
to nature’s moonlit dream, removes
her wings, mermaid trading tail,
angel coming down to earth.
Supernatural called back to ordinary.
Wingless, she searches for
a nesting site. Let the larvae
replace the males who died.
the new home is soft, moist,
decaying wood of a hollow tree,
stump, or log, our porch pillars, door
or window casing. We can’t understand--
Ralph Waldo Emerson, be damned--
I swear what drives us is more beautiful.
And would the carpenter ants, swear same?
Their whitish, soft-bodied, legless larvae
later become the sterile female workers.
With thanks to the writing of Steve Jacobs,
Sr. Extension Associate
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences
Laura Lee Washburn is a University Professor, the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review. Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in Missouri. She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky and is one of the founders and the Co-President of the Board of SEK Women Helping Women. https://www.facebook.com/sekwhw
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